Review – Fujifilm X-T2 For Landscape Photography
It has been 2 years since I wrote my Review of the Fuji X-T1. If you are new to the Fuji system I would recommend reading this post first to understand my affection for Fuji.
The X-T1 has been my primary camera all this time, and I have had no regrets moving to this system. I will admit, a bump up in the megapixels was one of the few things I was pining for. Fuji has answered with a 24.3mp X-trans sensor that will have many questioning if they really need a full frame sensor.
One of the biggest reasons to consider an upgrade from the X-T1 is, of course, the increase in resolution. Going from 16.3mp to 24.3mp is a major jump. This finally puts it in close competition with most high megapixel cameras out there. No, it is not a 5Ds R, or a A7RII, but how many of us really need that many megapixels? The native resolution of this camera will give you a print of 16×24 at 240ppi. The files are so clean and sharp, that I would not hesitate to resample the files to 30×45 and produce beautiful prints.
I was hoping for a large improvement in the high ISO department, but this seems to be an area where cropped sensors cannot quite compete yet. I am not saying that it is bad, although, compared to the new Sony’s it doesn’t hold a candle. On the other hand, it is very similar to the results you would get from a D810. Considering the big boost in megapixels, I am still happy with the images this camera can produce at night, the grain is finer than before, and there are more details in the shadows.
Below is a crop of un-editied raw files from the X-T1 and X-T2 for comparison. I did not resize either image, I simply opened them in Photoshop and zoomed to the same level, and matched up the screenshots the best I could. (X-T1 on the left, X-T2 on the right)
The image below is to show what can be done with proper technique and post-processing with the X-T2.
X-T2 with Rokinon 12mm f/2. Two images blended together for dynamic range and quality. Sky was taken at ISO 6400, 20″, f/2. Mountains taken at ISO 3200, 4 minutes, f/2 with long exposure noise reduction turned on. Click image to see full resolution.
I have always been impressed with the dynamic range of the Fuji raw files, and the X-T2 does not disappoint. In general, I do not have to blend images except in extreme circumstances. Below is an image I bracketed, the properly exposed image (on the left), the underexposed (right) was raised 4 stops. I zoomed in very close so you can see there is noise brought out of the shadows in this extreme adjustment, but no noise reduction has been applied (or sharpening), there is some color lost in the greens, but with some post processing this could be a usable image even with such an extreme adjustment.
Another example of an extremely underexposed foreground that looks unusable at first blush. I raised the exposure by one stop, pulled the shadows to 100, and the highlights to -100 and suddenly it looks very good. Granted, if you zoom into the foreground it will be noisy due to another extreme example, but potentially usable. These examples are to show what is possible, in most situations you will not see noise when pulling shadows out of a properly exposed file. For maximum quality on this image I would take one exposure for the sky, one for the foreground, and blend them together in Photoshop.
If you are interested in looking at the RAW files, you may download the unedited versions here.
In my previous review I raved about the sharpness of all the lenses in the Fuji lineup, and while I do stand behind that, things have changed a little bit with the higher resolution sensor. Some of the lenses do show some weakness with the extra megapixels, because of this I have moved over to the professional line of XF lenses. That’s not to say that you have to upgrade if you get the X-T2, but some lenses like the 18-135 and 50-230 will show some softness now.
For maximum quality I would recommend the following lenses to have a complete range for landscape photography:
10-24 f/4, 16-55 f/2.8, and 50-140 f/2.8. This gives you a full frame equivalent range from 15mm-200mm
For a lighter kit that still has incredible quality, I would recommend this:
10-24 f/4, 18-55, and 55-200. This gives you a full frame equivalent range from 15mm-305mm. The 18-55 and 55-200 have a variable aperture, thus not quite the quality of the 2.8 lenses, but still very good.
I also added the Fuji 100-400 to my bag, not just for wildlife, but for intimate scenes. I was surprised at how much I used the lens this fall, a number of photos in this post were taken with this lens. I will be doing a more in-depth review of this and the other XF lenses in the future.
Weight is still a big concern for me, this year I decided to take a hit in the name of quality f/2.8 lenses. Last year I was at 2.95 lbs, and this year I am at 5.66. Yes, it is nearly double, but still much lighter than the equivalent Canon, Nikon, or Sony kits. Below you can see the weight comparisons of f/2.8 lenses on the left, and f/4 lenses on the right. For f/2.8 lenses you can see Canon and Nikon are approaching double the weight, and Sony a little over 2 lbs heavier.
Naysayers will complain that I am not comparing apples to apples here, full frame cameras versus a crop sensor does not make sense, right? I would have thought the same thing before I picked up the Fuji over 2 years ago. As I stated in the previous review, the X-trans sensor is something different, and I really believe it can compete with the full frames, this combined with incredibly sharp lenses produce phenomenal files.
As you can see in the above chart, the Fuji system costs nearly half of the other options!
You can now select a new setting for ‘Pixel’ or ‘Film Format’. This only changes the display of the DoF scale, ‘Film Format’ shows you what will be in focus on an 8×10 print when viewed from 1 foot away. If you never print larger than 8×10, this setting will work for you. If you print larger or want to ensure your images will be sharp on a large screen, you will want to change the setting to ‘Pixel’. This is a more conservative setting to ensure what is shown on the scale will be nice and sharp. The DoF scale on the X-T1 was more conservative than the new ‘Film Format’, but ‘Pixel’ is even more conservative with the additional megapixels on the X-T2
Three ‘Auto ISO’ Settings
There are now 3 auto ISO setting to choose from quickly, from which you can have 3 different minimum shutter speeds, this is great to have for different focal length lenses when shooting handheld. If I’m using the 100-400 I’ll use an auto ISO with a minimum shutter speed of 1/500, unfortunately, this is the fastest shutter speed you can set it to for some reason, but it will do for most situations.
I do not work with video so I have no opinion here. I played with it a little bit and the video appears to be phenomenal, plus the autofocus worked shockingly well. Some specs below which are largely greek to me…
4K UHD video at up to 30 fps for up to 10 min (30 min with booster grip)
F-Log flat profile and 4K out over HDMI
This is a massive improvement that makes the camera a joy to use again. It now takes a fraction of a second to change your focus point with your thumb. No longer do you have to push a button to activate the focus points, move the point, and then commit it. Just move the joystick and you are ready to go, huge for wildlife, and a great improvement for landscapes.
The wheels for ISO and Shutter Speed now have locking buttons, which are thankfully much improved over the X-T1 which required holding down the center button to change settings. Now the wheels can be locked or unlocked easily. When I need to change settings quickly they remain unlocked, and when I’m working at a slower pace they will stay locked down so I do not inadvertently change my settings.
The tilting screen has been greatly improved over the X-T1, with a simple addition of being able to tilt while in portrait orientation. I use the tilting screen all the time when shooting low angles with an ultra-wide lens, but I often shoot in portrait when doing this. Now I can get low to the ground without having to lay down to see my screen.
An additional ‘C’ mode has been added, which allows you to change exposure compensation with the front wheel rather than the knob. If you click the wheel, it locks in your exposure compensation until you click it again. While not a feature I would necessarily use in landscape photography, it is great to have for wildlife where you need quicker access than reaching your hand up to turn the wheel.
The eye cup has been improved to be something in between the former stock eyecup of the X-T1 and the upgraded long eye cup. It is a great blend of the two for keeping sunlight out, and not sticking out so far that it gets torn off when pulling it out of your bag.
A new addition is ‘My Menu’ where you can add commonly used menu items. Once you add something to this menu, it will be the first thing to pop up when you click the Menu button. So far I have added Long Exposure Noise Reduction, Wireless Communication, and Shutter Type. I only wish I could add Format Card to the menu.
Areas that needed improvement on the X-T1:
In my previous post, I talked about some things that needed improvement, and many of them have been implemented.
Update: With the v2.0 firmware this is possible! You can now bracket 9 frames anywhere from 1/3 to 3 stops apart, that is a potential of 12 stops on either side, this is no longer a feature anyone could complain about.
It is still limited to 3 shots, but you can do up to 2 stops apart now. I still could care less about this because it is so easy to turn the exposure compensation dial while watching the viewfinder/LCD and seeing the exposure in real time, rather than relying on bracketing. With the dynamic range of this camera I can typically capture everything in one shot, in high dynamic range situations I can take one for the foreground and one for the sky, that is all that is needed in most situations.
I made a request to have the playback button be accessible with my right hand, while the playback button has remained on the left, they have given us the option to program any button to be playback. I programmed the AE-L button (which I never use) to bring up playback, this works great.
UPDATE: In the v3.0 firmware update they finally added an RGB histogram!
We have this in raw now! It is still considered out of spec, as it is in the ‘L’ or low mode, but it is great to have the option when you need a longer exposure.
This has been improved, and there are more options to choose from, like setting the playback button.
Update: I use focus peaking all the time now for focus stacking quickly. There are circumstances it could be a little more clear, but most of the time it works fantastic.
Exposures greater than 30 seconds in ‘T’
Update: They finally did it! In v2.0 firmware you can select exposures longer than 30 seconds, the first rendition is slightly limited in that you can only select 1/3 stop increments up to 1 minute, after that it goes to full stops (2 min, 4 min, 8 min, 15 min) it’s not perfect, but a great start!
Dual SD card slots
Yes! They can be used as either an overflow or a backup, I prefer the latter.
More film modes
I do not use the film modes so much anymore, I stick to Provia 95% of the time. The only film that has been added is Acros, which is a great black and white film simulation that I do like to use when visualizing in black and white, as you can see your scene in black and white through the viewfinder.
Nope. Maybe a crazy idea on my part anyway.
Areas That Still Need Improvement
I use the second sd card slot as a backup, so when I download my images I need to format both cards, unfortunately, the option is buried in the menus, and you can only format one card at a time. It takes a minimum of 13 button clicks to format each card, what a pain! At least give us the option to format both cards at once.
Update: A few commenters noted that there is a shortcut to format the cards easily, simply hold down the trash button for three seconds, while still holding down the button, push in or ‘click’ the rear command dial. This brings up the format menu quickly, but you still have to do each card individually, I would still like an option to format both in this menu.
Wildlife, Action, etc.
The AF system in the X-T2 received a major overhaul, it now has 325 AF points, and 169 of those have phase detection. Which makes it one of the best AF systems on the market. I found the AF to be extremely fast and accurate, for those of you that need this type of performance, this is no longer a reason to overlook this camera.
The camera has a frame rate of 8 fps, which is more than enough for most. If you need more, you can add the Fuji Vertical Grip to bring the frame rate up to 11 fps. This is approaching the speed of Nikon and Canon’s flagship models.
The new Fujifilm XF 100-400mm lens will give wildlife photographers the reach they need in most situations. This is an equivalent focal length of 150-600mm on full frame. This can be paired with a 1.4x or 2x teleconverter, giving an equivalent reach of 840mm with the 1.4x, and 1200mm with the 2x. Granted, this will make the lens very slow (f/8 with the 1.4x, and f/11 with the 2x), so do not expect to be using these in low light. Hardcore wildlife photographers will want to stick with Nikon or Canon to get the fast, long lenses. For the rest of us that are not willing to spend 10k on a lens, this is a great solution.
Macro is still lagging behind, but there is a new lens on Fuji’s roadmap for 2017, which is an 80mm f/2.8 macro. This will be a great focal length and satisfy any macro photographers needs. In the meantime, you can use the Rokinon 100mm f/2.8 Macro, which is what I have been using. It is intended for full frame, so it is a big, heavy lens. There are also extension tubes available which I use with the Fuji 50-140 for macro.
The L-Plate from the X-T1 will not work on the X-T2, this is because they moved the mounting bolt to be directly under the lens rather than offset. Currently, the only L-Plate designed for this camera is the BXT2 by Really Right Stuff, this is what I am using, and I can tell you that it is a great design. All ports are accessible, and they have an adjustable L-Plate, which you can loosen a bolt, and slide it to your desired position. Plus it is very solid when in portrait orientation, I could not say this about the Markins I have on the X-T1.
Post Processing Difficulties
Developing raw files from the X-Trans sensor can be difficult at times, especially with Adobe’s software. Lightroom and camera raw struggle with sharpening on these files, there are other options to get the sharpest file possible, one is using Iridient X-Transformer in conjunction with Lightroom, this is the best option if you are committed to Lightroom. I have chosen a different route and switched to Capture One Pro, all the images in this post were processed using this software. I have found the sharpness to be infinitely better, along with improved color and contrast.
Fujifilm continues to blow me away with their commitment to creating exceptional quality camera bodies and lenses. I loved the X-T1, and now I love the X-T2 even more, which is saying a lot. I regularly work with Canon, Nikon, and Sony cameras with my clients, and it is a constant reminder of why I switched in the first place. The Fuji is simply a joy to use, I have fun every time I lay my hands on it, I cannot say this about any of the other brands. This should be your number one deciding factor when choosing a camera system; do you love using it? The feel of the camera, the intuitive functionality, and the gorgeous images with three-dimensional depth and stunning colors are what pulled me to the Fujifilm system. It is not right for everyone, some do not like the smaller size in their hands, others cannot bear the thought of using a cropped sensor. The quality of the images are superb though, only the pickiest of the pixel peepers will be disappointed.
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